Posts tagged ‘Beer’

August 12, 2016

Week 260 – Jolly Good Song

So, ladies and gentlemen, here is my two hundred and sixtieth consecutive weekly post. Which means that A Folk Song A Week is five years old.

When I started the blog, I guesstimated that I knew about 150 songs. Obviously that turned out to be a significant understatement – the last time I did a reckoning, I counted up about another fifty songs that I know, plus more that I don’t know yet, but really must get around to learning some time. Given time, I hope to post all of those here. However, after five years, I’m going to cut myself some slack. This is certainly not the end of the blog, but I will no longer be maintaining a strict weekly publishing schedule. That’s not to say there won’t be a post next week, or the week after – but don’t count on it. So, if you want to be sure of never missing a post, do subscribe using the tools on the right.

I have to say, starting up this blog was one of the best decisions I ever made. I started it at a time when I really wasn’t doing enough singing – this way, I thought, I’ll be forced to sing at least once a week. Also, a couple of years previously, I had had a medical problem with my throat, which prevented me from singing for the best part of a year. I was (am) afraid that the problem might return, and I wanted to document my repertoire while I could. Primarily for my own benefit, but also for my children, and for posterity – whether or not posterity was remotely interested.

Obviously, I can’t speak for posterity, but it has been exceedingly gratifying to receive many positive comments – here, on Facebook, and just bumping into people at gigs, sessions and elsewhere. So thank you, everyone who has had nice things to say. I started the blog for myself, but it’s still very satisfying to know that other people appreciate it.

So, what have I learned? Well, not very many new songs, I’m afraid. I’m sure there were others, but the ones that spring to mind are ‘Georgie, ‘The Bonny Bunch of Roses O’, ‘Ye Boys o’ Callieburn’ and ‘Jack Williams’. But then there have been other songs which I’d half known for years, but which this blog prompted me to learn properly; for instance ‘All things are quite silent’, ‘Master Kilby’ and ‘House in the Country’. And then there have been a great many songs which I used to sing, had somehow allowed to fall into neglect, and then – reviving them to post here – was delighted to find were really far too good not to sing: ‘Do Me Ama’ and John Kirkpatrick’s ‘Dust to Dust’ for example. Oh, and I’ve also gained a greater facility at knocking up simple concertina accompaniments – something I’ve tended to agonise over in the past – when the need arises: by way of example, see ‘Here’s Adieu Sweet Lovely Nancy’, ‘Warlike Seamen‘, ‘Saint Stephen’ and ‘The Somerset Wassail’.

And I’ve learned so much writing up the weekly blog entries. Even where I thought I knew quite a bit about the song already, a bit of digging around on my bookshelves and on the web has invariably produced further information. There’s such a wealth of information online now for anyone with an interest in these old songs, and the sources continue to multiply. When I began, we were still marvelling at the EFDSS Take Six resource. But that turned out just to be whetting our appetite for the riches which the Full English archive would offer. The Bodleian, too, has expanded and improved its Broadside Ballad site. And then there’s sites like Tobar an Dualchais, Gloucestershire Traditions and, one I found just recently, The music of Sally Sloane.  My heartfelt thanks to all the people involved in building and updating these sites. And to everyone whose contributions to Mudcat I have plundered over the last five years, especially to the late Malcolm Douglas, who I never knew, but whose name I am always pleased to see cropping up on a thread about a song’s origins.

And a massive thank you to Reinhard Zierke, whose Mainly Norfolk site is normally my first port of call when researching a song (if only because it always provides me with a Roud number and a link to the Full English), and whose comments here have been unfailingly constructive and helpful. Reinhard – you’re a gent.

As for this song, for a long while I’ve had it stored up to use as The Last Song On The Blog. Well, this isn’t actually the Last Post, but it seemed like a suitable time to post it here. Bob Copper sings it on Turn o’ the Year, disc 4 of the Leader A Song for Every Season box set; although I learned it from my mate Adrian Russell, on one of the sing-songs we used to have driving between country pubs in Kent. Being polite, Bob Copper sings “give the old bounder some beer”. Adrian, I’m pretty sure, always used to sing “give the old bugger some beer”, which I imagine is closer to what Bob and his father’s Rottingdean companions actually sang between songs in the Black Horse.

At the end of a song, quite often the company in general would sing,

A jolly good song and jolly well sung,
Jolly good company, everyone;
If you can beat it you’re welcome to try,
But always remember the singer is dry.

Give the old bounder some beer —
He’s had some, he’s had some.
Then give the old bounder some more.

Half a pint of Burton won’t hurt’n, I’m certain,
O, half a pint of Burton won’t hurt’n, I’m sure.

s – u – p

(notes to Bob and Ron Copper English Shepherd and Farming Songs, Folk Legacy Records)

Three men discuss various local issues over a pint of beer and a cigarette at the Wynnstay Arms in Ruabon, Denbighshire, Wales. From the Ministry of Information Second World War Collection, Imperial War Museum. © IWM (D 18478)

Three men discuss various local issues over a pint of beer and a cigarette at the Wynnstay Arms in Ruabon, Denbighshire, Wales. From the Ministry of Information Second World War Collection, Imperial War Museum. © IWM (D 18478)

Clearly, it was not only in Sussex that this refrain was used in such a way. On Mudcat, Robin Turner (no relation, as far as I know) recalls

As a lad in the late 1940s and early 50s, I was taken to many concerts of the Ullswater Pack, in pubs such as the White Lion Patterdale, and the Travellers rest at Glenridding…

Many of the tunes I still recall, and I particularly recall the enthusiastic and knowledgeable audience participation at these concerts. After each singer, the MC for the evening would lead everybody in a short chorus of appreciation of the singer, which went:
“Its a Jolly good song, and its jolly well sung, Jolly good company every-one, And he who can beat it is welcome to try, But always remember the Singer is Dry!” followed by a common roar “Sup, yer Bloodhounds, Sup!”

 

And the same usage is described in this article in The Glasgow Herald, 18 September 1915

Old, old songs belonging to the early Victorian age were given by soldiers who had great emotion and broke down sometimes in the middle of a verse. There were funny men dressed in the Mother Twankey style or in burlesque uniforms who were greeted with veils of laughter by their comrades. An Australian giant played some clever card tricks, and another Australian recited Kipling’s “Gunga Din” with splendid fire. And between every “turn” the soldiers in the fiels roared out a chorus:—

“Jolly good song,
Jolly well sung,
If you can think of a better you’re welcome to try,
But don’t forget the singer is dry,
Give the poor beggar some beer!”

 

Meanwhile, in Yorkshire, where they pride themselves on plain speaking, this recording of the Holme Valley Beagles suggests that there’s no messing around with “bounder” or “beggar”. Here the refrain is

Sup, you bugger, sup!

And so say all of us.

 

Happy old man drinking glass of beer, 1937.

Happy old man drinking glass of beer, 1937.

Oh, there’s one last thank you before I go: to Jon Boden, whose A Folk Song A Day provided the original inspiration for this blog, and several others besides. Look what you started, Jon…

Jolly Good Song

June 10, 2016

Week 251 – John Barleycorn

This is the second version of ‘John Barleycorn’ to appear on this blog. I posted a Shropshire version back in Week 61, and there’s also the – largely unrelated – ‘John Barleycorn’s a Hero Bold’. I’ve also recorded a third version – collected from Charlie Hill of Devon in the 1970s – on the Magpie Lane CD A Taste of Ale. That CD can still be purchased from our website (so don’t pay £34 for it from Amazon!), or downloaded from Amazon, iTunes etc. etc. (I notice on Amazon we are described as “Oxfordshire folk supergroup” – not sure we’re quite in the Traveling Wilburys league).

Ian and I sang this version of the song on the first Magpie Lane CD, The Oxford Ramble, back in 1993, and I suppose we’d better revive it for the ‘Songs from Bampton’ session we’re running at the English Country Music Weekend at the end of this month. It’s the best-known version – indeed I’d say it’s one of the  best known English folk songs, thanks to the fact that it was included in the Penguin Book of English Folk Songs, and to recordings by Mike Waterson, Martin Carthy, Traffic, Chris Wood… and Martin Carthy again, with Paul Weller of all the unlikely people, on the first Imagined Village album.

Believed to be a photograph of Shepherd Hayden, taken by Cecil Sharp. Copyright EFDSS.

Believed to be a photograph of Shepherd Hayden, taken by Cecil Sharp. Copyright EFDSS.

Cecil Sharp noted the song at Bampton in Oxfordshire, on 31st August 1909, from the eighty-three year old Shadrach ‘Shepherd’ Haden.

John Barleycorn, collected by Cecil Sharp from Shepherd Hayden (or Haden); from the Full English.

John Barleycorn, collected by Cecil Sharp from Shepherd Hayden (or Haden); from the Full English.

Another, completely different version of the song, also collected in Bampton, was included in the New Penguin Book of English Folk Songs. Steve Roud’s notes to the song say

It was perhaps inevitable that this song would attract the ritual-origins theorists who claimed that it was all to do with corn spirits and resurrection, but it is now generally agreed that such notions were romantic wishful thinking and there is no evidence either for the theories themselves or for this song to be anything other than a clever allegory.

And I’ll go along with that. Long live Occam’s Razor.

John Barleycorn

And here’s Ian Giles and me singing the song at the very first Magpie Lane gig, Holywell Music Room, May 1993.

 

November 29, 2015

Week 223 – The Mail Coach Guard

I’ve had a cold this week, so have not been able to record a new song for the blog (and, unusually, I’d used up all the recordings in my store). So here’s one I prepared earlier – 15 years ago, to be exact.

It’s a track from our CD A Taste of Ale, recorded to accompany Roy Palmer’s book of the same name. As far as I can see, all Roy’s book has to say about the song is that the words are anonymous, nineteenth century. Presumably his source was this ballad from the Bodleian collection, printed in Manchester in the first half of the nineteenth century.

The mail coach guard, from Broadside Ballads Online.

The mail coach guard, from Broadside Ballads Online.

The tune was composed by Roy’s wife, Pat. Although it’s an inconsequential little song, I have to say I rather like our arrangement, and was very pleased with the tune I came up with for the instrumental breaks.

Last week I referred to Pentangle’s ‘Lord Franklin’ possibly being the only known instance of Bert Jansch playing concertina. Well this is almost certainly the only recording in existence of me playing the autoharp.

Incidentally, I’m linking to a YouTube video below. It’s one of those videos where there’s nothing to watch, just a still image accompanying the audio stream. I noticed just recently that all of the Magpie Lane albums for Beautiful Jo have been uploaded to YouTube by “The Orchard Enterprises”. According to Wikipedia they are  “a music, film, and video distribution, marketing, and sales company and top-ranked Multi-Channel Network that works with independent artists, labels, and other content providers to distribute content to hundreds of digital and mobile outlets around the world, as well as physical retailers in North America and Europe”.

Now I’m not sure how I feel about this. Our albums have been on Spotify for some while now – I think this coincided with, or was a consequence of, Beautiful Jo’s catalogue being put on digital platforms such as iTunes, eMusic and Amazon. Record companies and artists get an infinitesimal payment for each Spotify play. But at least there is some payment. Having the albums free on YouTube really does seem to be just giving it away.

I’m not averse to making my music freely available, if I choose to do so myself (this blog being an obvious example!). You can listen to my album Love Death and the Cossack for nothing over on Bandcamp. And the same goes for the three Geckoes albums. But we chose to put them online. And you have the option of paying me / us if you want  to download the albums as high-quality audio files.

Some years ago, I was contacted by a bloke who had put half a dozen of our songs on YouTube, with accompanying montages of images. He was looking for our retrospective blessing. Clearly he was a fan, and he had the best of motives, but I’m afraid I couldn’t bring myself to send him any kind of a reply. As someone whose day job involves a certain amount of work around avoiding copyright infringements, I was flabbergasted by the number of separate copyrights these video and audio mash-ups must have violated. But no point complaining, I thought, it’s just the way the world is going. Little did I know just how right that would turn out to be.

Still, if you would like a physical copy of A Taste of Ale, or indeed any of our albums, do come and see us at one of our gigs this Christmas, and buy a copy!

 

 

The Mail Coach Guard

Magpie Lane, from the album A Taste of Ale (BEJOCD-32, Beautiful Jo, 1999)

Andy Turner – vocal, autoharp
Di Whitehead – cello
Benji Kirkpatrick – guitar
Mat Green – fiddle

(apologies to Tom Bower who I thought played flute on this track – lost in the mix, perhaps?)

March 7, 2015

Week 185 – John Barleycorn’s a Hero Bold

This song was collected by Bob Copper in 1954 from George Attrill of Fittleworth in Sussex.

If a song is all the better for the singer knowing what he is singing about – and I believe this to be true whether the subject of the song be fishing, ploughing, mining or loving – then there could never have been a man better qualified than George to sing this song. Every lunchtime of his life would find him in the Swan at Fittleworth where ten or twelve pints of mild would slip smoothly and rapidly down his gullet before lunch could be considered complete. And he would round this off with another five or six leisurely pints in the evening.

Bob Copper, Songs and Southern Breezes (Heinemann, 1973) p81

 I have never heard a recording of George Attrill singing this, so I’m not sure how far my tune departs from what he sang. Certainly the tune is transcribed differently in Songs and Southern Breezes  and Peter Kennedy’s Folk Songs of Britain and Ireland which is, I think, where I first encountered it. From Bob Copper’s book it seems that when George sang it, all four lines of the verse used pretty much the same tune. Whereas in Kennedy’s book the third line is quite different (and that’s how I sing it). There’s also a divergence in the chorus. Peter Kennedy has the ascending line on “Old and young thy praise have sung” starting on the tonic. I start the run one note higher, and – having looked again at Songs and Southern Breezes – that’s how it’s given there.  I’ve heard it sung both ways. Right or wrong, I think my tune has a bit more interest to it – but it does make it a song worth avoiding in folk clubs and sessions, unless you’re a fan of dissonance.

There’s a Mudcat thread on this song, from where I learn that the song was originally composed – with a significantly different tune – by Joseph Bryan Geoghegan in around 1860.

Joseph Bryan Geoghegan, 1816-1889. Image found via a Mudcat discussion on the composer of this song.

Joseph Bryan Geoghegan, 1816-1889. Image found via a Mudcat discussion on the composer of this song.

 

John Barleycorn. Ballad printed between 1863 and 1885 by H.P. Such, London. From Ballads Online.

John Barleycorn. Ballad printed between 1863 and 1885 by H.P. Such, London. From Ballads Online.

 

John Barleycorn’s a Hero Bold

January 25, 2015

Week 179 – O Good Ale

It is of good ale to you I’ll sing And to good ale I’ll always cling, I like my mug filled to the brim And I’ll drink all you’d like to bring, O, good ale, thou art my darling, Thou art my joy both night and morning.

A rather wonderful event took place yesterday at Cecil Sharp House – Ten Thousand Times Adieu, the Bob Copper Centenary Event, aka Bobstock. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world, and in the event was delighted to be able to take part, deputising for Tony Engle in a one-off reunion of the seminal quartet Oak (last previous performance, 1972!). Here’s a hot-off-the-press review of the event on the Guardian website. At the end of the night, all the invited performers got up on stage to join three generations of the Copper Family in singing ‘Thousands or More’ and ‘Oh Good Ale’. Blasting out those two songs, standing just behind John Copper (I suspect our relative heights may mean there will be no photographic evidence of my presence on stage at that point!) and next to Maddy Prior (who must take a lot of the blame for getting me hooked on traditional music as a teenager) is something I won’t forget in a hurry.

The finale at Bobstock - thanks to Ronald Ellis for the photo

The finale at Bobstock – thanks to Ronald Ellis for the photo

So here’s my rendition of ‘Good Ale’. I must admit it’s a song I’d almost forgotten that I knew, until a couple of weeks back, when I saw that the Coppers had sung it when Harveys Brewery in Lewes started brewing their Copper Ale. Although I hadn’t sung it in years, I found that I remembered most of the verses, and a quick scan of the good book soon reminded me of the rest. In latter years, when I saw Bob singing this with the family, he was always rather apologetic (understandably enough) about the “two black eyes” verse, and I’ve improvised an alternative, less misogynistic rhyme for “if my wife did me despise”. Misogynist lyrics notwithstanding, this was a song Bob was very fond of. It was one of his grandfather “Brasser” Copper’s songs. “Brasser” was landlord of the Black Horse in Rottingdean and would apparently say to new employees “Now you can drink as much beer as you like… but you can only drink singing beer and not fighting beer” (see Ale Tales: a social history of brewing in Lewes and across East Sussex p31). This division of beer into “singing beer” and “fighting beer” was one which Bob inherited. I remember reading an interview with Bob where he said that, although the Coppers drank plenty, they always drank singing beer, not fighting beer. I thought that quotation came from an interview conducted by Vic Smith in either Musical Traditions or Traditional Music but I’ve re-read a couple – one in print and one online – and can’t find it. Maybe it was in Folk Roots or Southern Rag.  In any case, here it is from an interview on Australian national radio

if we used to go out with the local pub to a darts match or something like that, on the way back we’d drink plenty of beer, but we always drank singing beer, not fighting beer, that’s a very important distinction. It doesn’t matter how much singing beer you have, but you don’t want any fighting beer.

And to end on a related quotation, here is Bob interviewed by Vic Smith in 1984, and printed in Musical Traditions No 3, Summer 1984

he was a very sort of worthy member of the family for drinking ale. It’s a tradition we’ve kept up just as eagerly and well, I think, as the singing. And he used to say, y’know, about beer, “Well cocky. A pint o’beer is enough for any man. Two’s too much and three ain’t half a-blooming-nough!”

Good ale thou art my darling, published by H. Such between 1863 and 1885; from Broadside Ballads Online.

Good ale thou art my darling, published by H. Such between 1863 and 1885; from Broadside Ballads Online.

O Good Ale

October 26, 2014

Week 166 – Poison Beer

Fred Whiting. Photo by John Howson.

Fred Whiting. Photo by John Howson.

Like last week’s song ‘Who Owns the Game?’ this was recorded by Mike Yates and John Howson from the Suffolk singer Fred Whiting, and I learned it from the LP Who Owns the Game? – which, contrary to what I initially wrote last week, is available on CD from Veteran. And once again, Fred Whiting seems to be the only known source for the song.

According to Sing, Say or Pay! Keith Summers’ survey of East Suffolk Country Music (Musical Traditions Article MT027), Fred had the song from Cropther Harvey from Redlingfield:

It’s amazing, you know, what some of those old boys could drink too.  I was playing in Rishangles Swan once and there was an old boy called Swaler Parrott and nearly every five minutes he’d bang on the bar and shout “I’ll have another skep”.  Five minutes later “I’ll have another skep” (pint), and he must have had 18 pints that night, and do you know he walked home as straight as a crow in a rain storn.

Old Cropther Harvey from Redlingfield – nearly all his songs were about beer-drinking, and that’s where I learnt that song Poison Beer from.  My dad used to knock about with him – they were both shepherds and both sang beer songs – “If you want to get rid of yer beer, I’ve got plenty of room down here”.

Beyond that, I know nothing about the song. But presumably it dates from the second half of the nineteenth century, when the Temperance movement was in full swing.

 

 

 

 

 

Poison Beer

October 22, 2012

Week 61 – John Barleycorn

‘John Barleycorn’ was one of the first traditional songs I ever heard. That was the Steeleye version, which I soon discovered was pretty much the same as that printed in Fred Hamer’s Garners Gay. Like pretty much everything on Below the Salt, I learned that version at the time; and I’m pretty sure it was for a while in the repertoire of a group I sang with at University, The Paralytics aka Three Agnostics and a Christian.

In more recent times, I have recorded two different versions with Magpie Lane. First, on The Oxford Ramble Ian Giles and I sang the classic Shepherd Haden version. Then on A Taste of Ale I sang a version collected by Gwilym Davies in the 1970s. The Oxfordshire version should appear on this blog at some point, since it is, notionally at least, still in my repertoire. But the Devon version, like much of the material on A Taste of Ale, was worked up for the CD, then forgotten about (I can’t actually recall the tune right now).

If I was starting from scratch, and looking for a ‘John Barleycorn’ version to sing, I might well be tempted by the rather nice minor key version (another from Bampton-in-the-Bush) printed in the New Penguin Book of English Folk Songs. But here’s a version which I recorded on a demo tape with Chris Wood, circa 1985. This came from Peter Kennedy’s Folk Songs of Britain and Ireland. Kennedy collected the song from Bert Edwards of Little Stretton, Shropshire, and it’s similar to the way another Shropshire singer, Fred Jordan, used to sing the song.

The notes to this song in the New Penguin Book of English Folk Songs say

It was perhaps inevitable that this song would attract the ritual-origins theorists  who claimed that it was all to do with corn spirits and resurrection, but it is now generally agreed that such notions were romantic wishful thinking and there is no evidence either for the theories themselves or for this song to be anything other than a clever allegory.

If we stick to what we do know…

Well if you want to know what we do know, you’ll have to buy the book. Even if you never learn any of the songs, it’s worth every penny for Steve Roud’s excellent well-informed and thoroughly commonsensical introduction.

John Barleycorn

http://magpielane.co.uk/andyturner/afsaw/John_Barleycorn_Shropshire.mp3%5D

Andy Turner: vocals, anglo-concertina

Chris Wood: fiddle, vocals

Recorded 1985 (?) by Bernard Brown

September 23, 2012

Week 57 – When Autumn Skies Were Blue

In last week’s post I neglected to mention the duo Tundra, Doug and Sue Hudson, who were a big local attraction in the late seventies / early eighties. ‘Hopping down in Kent’ was a key song in their repertoire, and this was another of theirs. In fact, as ‘The Jovial Man of Kent’, it was the opening track on their 1978 (debut?) LP A Kentish Garland.

I must have learned it at the time, although I’m not sure it’s ever been one I’ve “sung out”. Reminded of it when thinking about hopping last week, I was surprised to find that I could still remember the first two verses; and a quick look at the album sleeve (gatefold, natch) was enough to restore the missing verse to my memory.

The sleevenotes tell us that “attributed to Charles Dibdin the Elder, it first appeared in Chappell’s Old English Ditties“. Doug and Sue used a slightly different version of the tune to that printed in Chappell, and it’s all the better for it.

When Autumn Skies Were Blue

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